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The holidays mean time off for most Mexicans and time to focus on family, not politics—but decision-makers in Mexico appear to be taking advantage of the lack of attention afforded by the holidays to push for controversial policy decisions that they hope to keep out of the public’s watchful eye. The 2013 energy reform bill was approved during the second week of December 2021, when most people were busy getting ready for the Christmas season. Indeed, the biggest breakthrough in the energy industry since the nationalization of oil in 1938 occurred at a time when no one was paying attention, except for key stakeholders. And in 2022, when seeking to revert that 2013 energy reform, this time in the power sector, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador used the same strategy—an Easter Sunday vote. However, this was to no avail:
Initially, the vote was first postponed from November 2021 to April 2022. The president hoped that he could win enough votes from the opposition to pass his proposal. This did not work, so the president’s party further delayed the bill’s discussion and vote to Easter Sunday in the hope that they could force and even threaten some members of the opposition to split from their parties and vote for the president’s reform. This effort was to no avail, and just minutes before midnight on Easter Sunday, the lower house defeated López Obrador’s proposal, dealing what is perhaps the greatest defeat of his political agenda.
Regardless of this political maneuver, there were indications that the 2022 power reform bill, which would require a two-thirds vote because it proposed a constitutional change, was unlikely to pass. Weeks before it came to a vote, the larger opposition parties—the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the National Action Party (PAN), and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), held together by the coalition Va Por México (“Go for Mexico”) and a smaller party, the Citizens’ Movement (MC)—stated that they would vote against it. This was not always assured. PAN refused support for the bill from the beginning. This was expected, as PAN had voted with the then-governing PRI to enact the 2013 energy reform. It was slightly less clear, however, which direction the PRD would go, as President López Obrador was formerly its national leader and had refused to support the 2013 energy sector reform. In the end, it finally announced that it would go against the bill. But the real uncertainty came from the PRI. Ironically, the PRI, which spearheaded the 2013 constitutional reform that liberalized the energy industry, was the last party to take a stand. Many observers thought that López Obrador would find the missing votes among its members—but it was not to be. It finally announced that it would categorically oppose López Obrador’s proposed constitutional reform to remonopolize the power sector in the hands of the government.
Thus, it was late on the night of April 17, 2022, with 275 votes in favor of the reform and 225 against it, that the bill failed. It simply did not garner the two-thirds support of the members of the Chamber of Deputies. So, in the technical jargon used by Congress, the bill was “discharged.”